Migrant workers will only be allowed to settle in the UK if they earn at least £35,000, under government plans to ensure that only the “brightest and best” can reside permanently in the country.
According to immigration minister Damian Green, the minimum salary threshold will mean that skilled migrants coming to work in the UK under the tier-2 route will no longer be able to settle here simply based on the amount of time they have spent in the country.
As a result, those who earn less than the £35,000 threshold will only have permission to work in the UK for a maximum of six years.
The £35,000 threshold, which is said to reflect the median pay of UK workers in tier-2 level jobs, will not apply to PHD-level scientists and researchers or migrants who are being sponsored to do jobs which are on the “shortage occupation” list.
Investors, entrepreneurs and “exceptionally talented migrants”, who enter the country under the tier-1 route, will not be subject to the changes and will continue to have a direct route to settlement.
Green explained: “Settling in the UK is a privilege. We are sweeping aside the idea that everyone who comes here can settle, and instead reserving this important right only for the brightest and best.
“Our reforms of the immigration system will ensure we are more selective not only about those who are allowed to come here but also those who are allowed to stay permanently.”
However, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has raised concerns that the changes, which will apply to tier-2 migrants applying for settlement from April 2016, may put off skilled individuals from bringing their talents to the UK.
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the BCC, said: “While a salary threshold set at £35,000 will not stop the best and the brightest migrants from coming here to contribute to our economy, employers remain concerned about the potential for unintended consequences so this new level must be monitored. We welcome the exemption from the threshold for employees using the shortage occupation route, as they have the key skills Britain needs to power economic recovery, while giving the government and employers time to train up UK nationals to fill these gaps.
“However, the Government must be clearer that Britain welcomes the best talent from overseas. Sometimes the rhetoric is off-putting. If skilled individuals think the UK doesn’t want their skills, they will go to our global competitors who have made their interest very clear.”